I am filled with awe as I write this entry. Every day we get to see up close what people from all over the world are doing in this devastated region of Japan. I never imagined I’d get to be back in Japan right now let alone have a front row seat to see how a nation rebuilds after a major catastrophe. I kind of feel like we are news reporters on the trail of so many incredible stories of everyday people trying to make a difference in Tohoku. We keep meeting such devoted folks who are selfless and caring, loving the people of Japan with all their heart and soul and it is just SO awesome. I am so privileged to be where we are, doing what we are doing and I am thankful for all the volunteers we are meeting, the stories we hear, the children we meet, the interviews with those right in the center of the disaster area involved in relief efforts, etc.
We have been staying at Samaritan’s Purse HQ since Monday night and it’s been great; the staff here are wonderful and so kind to us. Matthias has been helping with various translation needs here and there. Today we woke up early, had breakfast and went to Ishinomaki to meet an older pastor named Abe-san who is doing relief efforts in his town. He lives in a part of Ishinomaki that was (miraculously) only mildly affected by the tsunami. He is very busy distributing goods to those in his neighboring communities who have lost everything and knows very well what his neighbors need. He said the greatest need right now in is area is for bicycles and fresh food for older people until supermarkets in the area start to reopen (it is too far for them to walk to the bigger supermarkets that are open). He had a box of about 100 lists handwritten by Japanese people of what they would like to receive – pots, toilet paper, bikes, etc.
We also followed Abe-san to Shin-tate meet this amazing guy named Dean who is doing wonderful work in restoring houses in the southwest part of Ishinomaki. Walking around that area and being invited to see the inside of two houses was unforgettable. (Keep in mind it’s two months after the tsunami hit!) In one house, half of the first floor was flooded with muddy water about 3 inches deep and in the other half all the floors had been ripped open to expose the foundation and the ground beneath. The owner calmly sat outside, welcoming us to see what remained of his house. We learned that for many homes in the Ishinomaki area, like this man, the second floor is okay but the first floor was completely ruined. A lot of the volunteer work involves gutting out homes, cleaning out mud, and restoring the first floors which is no easy job. The government will be visiting this area soon and determining which houses will be demolished and which ones can be repaired.
Walking about this town today, I saw a parking lot of crushed cars piled high, apartment complexes totally gutted (absolutely nothing left inside except mud and watery tatami mats), Japanese folks outside busily trying to fix up their ruined gardens and bushes, tumbled walls on the sides of the roads, cracks in the walls and roads, numerous businesses closed due to tsunami damage (100 yen shops, cell phone shops, restaurants, home centers, and just about every kind of shop), and tons and tons of trash on the sides of the roads.
We will go to Minami-sanriku tomorrow (because Matthias hasn’t been there yet) and then go to Sendai and stay with our friend Cal Cummings. I’m looking forward to a few days of rest in Sendai before we go back to Tome-shi on Sunday night to work with World Vision and the precious children at the evacuation center there.